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5th Memorial Marco Pantani & Photos
By Fabio
Date: 6/7/2008
5th Memorial Marco Pantani & Photos

5th Memorial Marco Pantani
Riccó's "future brother-in-law" Enrico Rossi takes a great victory on home soil and stops Damiano Cunego from having a winning comeback in the saddle.

Marco Pantani Memorial in Cesenatico Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

The fifth edition of the Memorial Marco Pantani (Gran Premio Mercatone Uno-Trofeo Granarolo) one-day race, held Saturday over a 172-kilometre course starting at The Pirate's hometown Cesenatico - in the Romagna area of Northern Italy - and with the finishing line situated at the end of the 1,200 metre climb to the Madonna del Monte abbey, was won by a "home rider" from Pantani's own Romagna, 26-year-old Enrico Rossi (Ita - NGC Medical-OTC Doors).

The man from Rimini, brother of the Italian National Cyclocross Champion - in the Elite Women's class - Vania Rossi, and also "future brother-in-law" of Giro d'Italia runner-up Riccardo Riccò, attacked after about 25 kilometres along with Luca Celli (Ita - Team LPR Brakes).

Luca Celli leads Enrico Rossi as they attack the final climb.
Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

The two guys, both from Romagna, know well each other and often train together on the same roads playing host to today's event. Their cooperation and knowledge of the route, combined with the lazy attitude of the field, helped them open up a maximum advantage of 08'20". The pack finally started the chase about 50 km from the finish, but it was a bit too late...

Liquigas' Vincenzo Nibali attacked the bunch with some 29 kilometres to go and cut his gap to the leaders down to slightly over the minute. But instead of catching and "eating" the frontrunners, lo Squalo (The Shark) was captured and swallowed by a nine-strong group containing a mix of well-known riders like Damiano Cunego - who made his comeback to the races today - and talented youngsters like the neo-pro Federico Canuti (Ita - CSF Group Navigare), just to name a few. But also LPR's own Ruslan Pidgornyy, whose efforts to slow the chase bore fruit and made things harder for the "Gruppo Cunego/Nibali": their time deficit was still a good 45-50 seconds as they went under the three-kilometre to go banner, and 47" one thousand metres later.

Celli and Rossi were still clear as they hit the last kilometre and the final ascent to the line. But efforts took toll on the legs of Celli, who just couldn't follow his breakaway mate in the final 600 metres.

Cunego catches Celli and Nibali
Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

The last-kilometre drama had also another protagonist: Damiano Cunego. The Little Prince, continuing his Tour de France build-up, attacked the chase group as the going got vertical for the last time, and easily caught and dropped poor Celli.

Rossi fights up the cobbled final climb... Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

to claim victory!! Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

But resistance from Enrico Rossi was not futile at all: the young guy from Romagna put in one last effort and held on to a very tiny advantage on Damiano, who had to settle for second place only; Luca Celli got no reward for his (huge) efforts, but at least LPR got one man on the podium as Pidgorniy pipped Nibali in the battle for third place.

An exhausted Rossi is helped to his feet... finishing the race the rider got off his bike without the energy to stand up and collapsed. Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

After-race comments from the winner, Enrico Rossi: "Two riders from Romagna made the winning breakaway! Well, I think that even if we try a hundred more times, we'll never succeed again. But we did it today! We rode well until the last kilometre, until the start of the climb up to the finish. Then we told each other: may the rider with more energy left in his legs win!"

Enrico Rossi and his Trofeo Memorial Pantani. Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

"I turned back 300 metres from the finish and saw that he (Celli) got dropped, but later was told that Cunego had powered away from the field, so I put in a last sprint to the line and won. Honestly I didn't expect that we could make it, I thought that, after a breakaway of 140 kilometres, the peloton was coming in much faster than us. But we rode hard in the last 20 kilometres too, and limited our losses. I'm very happy at this victory, and want to dedicate it to our sponsor and the whole squad; we badly needed a victory like this after we were excluded from the Giro. And to get it on my home roads in Romagna was just great. I wish Pantani could be here on the podium, but we'll always remember him as the great champion he used to be".

Podium: Damiano Cunego, Enrico Rossi and Ruslan Pidgornyy
Photo © 2008 Fotoreporter Sirotti

5th Memorial Marco Pantani
Cesenatico-Madonna del Monte
172.1 km) - 4:33:50

1. Enrico Rossi (Ita - NGC Medical-OTC Doors) - 04h33'50"
2. Damiano Cunego (Ita - Lampre)
3. Ruslan Pidgornyy (Ita - Team LPR Brakes)

4. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita - Liquigas)
5. Leonardo Giordani (Ita - Flaminia-Bossini Docce)
6. Eddy Ratti (Nippo-Endeka)
7. Francesco Gavazzi (Ita - Lampre)
8. Federico Canuti (Ita - CSF Group Navigare)
9. Luca Celli (Ita - Team LPR Brakes)

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